Celebrating my birthday with toddler and bump. It’s not quite the same as in those hedonistic days of old. Thanks to the bump I can’t sleep it off the next day because I can’t put anything potent enough inside my body worthy of being slept off. Not that my pregnant bladder could take it anyway. If ever there’s a reminder of being pregnant again it’s the stumble/ shuffle to the bathroom at least three times a night. And thanks to the toddler, sleeping in doesn’t feature much in everyday vocabulary anyway.
Incredibly Husband N’s birthday is the day before mine (relax horoscope people – he’s SO a lovely Earth sign dressed in Water disguise – I could never have married another me! Imagine the indecision for starters...) so thankfully we’re sailing the SS Lack Of Lie In together on our big days.
Apart from the heavy-weight ones – 21, 30 – I can’t much remember my birthdays over age ten. I suppose that happens when you stop playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and birthday drinks get stiffer than Cool-Aid. People have always made my birthdays lovely I know that much, but ask me where I was, what we did, what I got – no chance.
Except for the last three years that is – they’ve managed to achieve heavy-weight status all of their own without having any hefty number tags attached to them. The first year I’d just got engaged, the second I was pregnant and the third, last year, was my first birthday as a mother.
Quite coincidentally, in the UK there’s a big celebration on my birthday – November 5. Now more commonly known as Bonfire Night, it marks the anniversary of a failed attempt to blow up parliament buildings in London hundreds of years ago. Brits light giant bonfires, set off fireworks and stand around in the cold ‘oohing and aahing’ with frozen cheeks tipped skywards. It’s a bit like your July 4th except without the good weather, the grilling and the independence part.
There’s a great spot on a hill just behind our old apartment in Edinburgh which gives great views of the city on Bonfire Night. It was challenging in the dark but armed with flashlights and lit by explosions of colour all around us, we took friends up there after getting engaged and toasted our news with champagne and sausage rolls. It was so memorable we vowed we’d do the same again the following year and the next....
But a year later I was struggling with first trimester pregnancy sickness and toting a bag of booze I couldn’t drink up a frosty hill came a very distant second to donning a fleecy sock and dressing gown combo in front of Lost re-runs at home.
By the time my birthday came around last year Eliza was five months old. Although I looked up at the hill wistfully from our apartment window as I cradled her, I was perfectly content. My first ‘Happy Birthday Mummy’ card was proudly displayed on the mantelpiece and despite being unable to do much beyond sitting up, Eliza had somehow managed to get me a massage voucher for a swanky spa.
Still, Husband N was working in the US for a week and she was under militant sleep routine rules with no room for negotiations so a hill trip was out – for both of us. I remember whispering to her that one day we’d both take her up the hill to see the fireworks.
So it seems the hill trip was not to be, for the foreseeable future anyway. I find myself in Long Island with not a hill in sight, store-owners look at me quizzically when I ask if they sell fireworks this time of year and I can’t track down a sausage roll for love nor money.
At times like these I long for home, home. I want to be nearer stuff that’s familiar, nearer to the bonfires and fireworks, nearer to my family. But then I realise I am. This here is my little family – Husband N, Eliza and of course an ever-growing bellyful of Number Two. I'm so very grateful. Plus, we’ve still managed to accomplish a birthday first – we’re all together for the first time. What more could a birthday girl possibly want? Apart from a lie in maybe.....